Responsibility: Angry political rhetoric serves no purpose

Last week, James T. Hodgkinson wanted to know whether the members of Congress practicing baseball at a field in Alexandria, Va., were Republicans or Democrats, according to multiple media reports. Told they were GOP lawmakers, Hodgkinson walked back to his car, retrieved a rifle and opened fire.

Capitol Police officers at the scene returned fire, wounding Hodgkinson. The 66-year-old Illinois man later died at a hospital.

But before he was brought down, Hodgkinson seriously wounded U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., a congressional aide, another man and at least one police officer.

In early stages of the investigation, the fact Hodgkinson targeted Republican members of Congress suggests strongly he was upset with them — and that he believed killing some of them was an appropriate reaction to his displeasure.

In a nation of more than 325 million people, it is inevitable a substantial number will be mentally unbalanced enough to commit violent acts. But did the hysteria over Republican President Donald Trump and GOP lawmakers play a role?

That frenzy has reached the level that a New York City drama group is staging a production of “Julius Caesar” in which the lead character is played by an actor dressed and made up to resemble Trump. In the play, he is assassinated.

Defenders of the production say they have a First Amendment right to express their anger at Trump that way. They do. But legal sometimes is not right.

Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers like Rep. Claudia Tenney, of New York, regularly receive emails that say things like “One down, 216 to go …” (after Scalise was shot) or “Waiting on your son to come back bagged” (referring to Tenney’s son, an active duty U.S. Marine deployed to the Middle East).

Our very freedom to speak our minds in this country means our disagreements are very public. With that freedom comes some responsibility to realize our speech can have consequences.

There is a difference between questioning someone’s policies and insisting they are evil and need to be stopped. The latter is an invitation to people like Hodgkinson to take matters into their own hands through violence.

Surely we as a nation can resolve our differences without sinking to that level.

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